Solving complex ecological, social and economic problems

Sustainability Research at Simon Fraser University

SFU is home to at least 340 sustainability researchers across all campuses and faculties who develop solutions that simultaneously support ecological health, social wellbeing and economic prosperity.  They address the interconnectedness of ecological, social and economic issues; contribute toward solving sustainability challenges like climate change, global poverty, inequality, natural resource depletion and environmental degradation; and engage community members through knowledge and action to achieve positive social, economic and environmental outcomes. 

Featured SFU sustainability researcher

Check out some amazing sustainability researchers and learn more about their work. Features are updated or changed on a semesterly basis. If you'd like to get a feature or share your research projects, kindly send an email to Kilim Park at

Dr. Mehrdad Moallem

Mehrdad Moallem, PhD, PEng is Professor of Mechatronic Systems Engineering at the Faculty of Applied Sciences, Simon Fraser University (SFU). Before joining SFU, he held research and faculty and research positions in Duke University, Durham, NC, USA, and the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada.

Dr. Moallem has extensive experience in various fields related to automation and control including mechatronics, robotics, real-time systems, energy systems, and power electronics conversion. He has published extensively in the above fields with over 250 refereed conference and journal papers, five books, and four patents.  During his career, he has taught a wide range of courses including electronics, circuits, linear and nonlinear control, mechatronics design, and robotic control. Dr. Moallem owes much of his academic achievements to more than 50 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows whom he has supervised or co-supervised and many undergraduate students.

Dr. Moallem has been on the editorial boards of mainstream conferences and journals in control and mechatronics including the American Control Conference, IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics, IFAC Journal of Mechatronics, International Journal of Intelligent Robotics and Applications (Springer), and MDPI Journal of Automation.

Dr. Annika Airas

Dr. Annika Airas is a lecturer in the Urban Studies Program at SFU. Her research and teaching work relates strongly to urban social sustainability, and she draws comparative insights from her background studying and living in Finland.

Recently, Dr. Airas co-developed a workshop entitled “Sustainability Beyond Google Translate” for Urban Studies course teaching. Drawing on the expertise of visiting speakers, the workshop aimed to challenge the role of English as a “lingua franca” of urban sustainability, planning, and policy, and was meant to provide an introduction to lived and local aspects of sustainability from Nordic and Indigenous languages and ways of knowing. This collaborative and intercultural learning experience advanced and enriched understandings of urban sustainability beyond participants’ familiar contexts.

This workshop formed the foundation for the development and implementation of a virtual “Comparative Urban Sustainability” course for Urban Studies in summer 2020 and 2021. Dr. Airas and colleagues redeveloped the second iteration of this virtual field school with funding from SFU International Services for Students. In this redevelopment, the aim was to improve accessibility to mobility programs for students who do not typically participate in these opportunities, develop “real life” case studies for the course in collaboration with local and Nordic guests, and offer new ways for students to learn, compare, and engage with case studies online. Case studies were developed with guests to help make urban sustainability relevant in relation to Indigenous, low-income, and disabled life experiences and expand the study and practice of urban sustainability locally and internationally.

Insights from these teaching and research efforts have highlighted the importance of advancing experiential intercultural learning and studying sustainability in ways that are meaningful and relatable in people’s everyday lives. In the coming years, Dr. Airas plans to continue collaborating with local and Nordic colleagues and students to create more accessible ways of learning sustainability in diverse cultural and multilinguistic contexts.

Living Lab Research projects

Examining the Carbon Impact of Streaming Media in University Teaching and Learning

To reduce the invisible environmental impact of information and communications technologies, Yani Kong measures university’s outputs and develops education and policy shifts for SFU.

LCA Analysis for SFU Fleet Electrification (PICS-Living Lab Scholar)

Kamaria Kuling investigates the benefits and challenges of replacing SFU’s operational vehicle fleet with low or zero emission vehicles.

Sustainability & Management of Bioplastis (Re-Use for Good project)

Despite a growing awareness, there's still misinformation about bioplastics. Nadia Springle researches sustainable single-use alternatives to petroleum-based plastics.

Sustainable Living Indoor Gardens Utilizing Energy-efficient and Renewable Energy Technology

Afagh Mohagheghi aims to utilize renewable energy and energy savings strategies to develop sustainable indoor gardens at SFU’s Surrey campus.

Find a researcher

You can view a full list of SFU's sustainability researchers based on the institution's AASHE 2018 research database submission here.

SFU's Research Expertise Engine (REE) is currently available in a beta release, exclusively for the SFU community. It includes more than 41,000 titles authored by SFU researchers, searchable by keyword, by author name, or by department or faculty. You can access it here (SFU log-in required).